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The U.S. Department of Energy is requiring a higher energy factor rating on all residential water heaters starting next year.

The EF mandate is a substantial change from the 2004 standard. For example, the EF standard on a 50 gallon electric water heater is going from .90 to .95.  Higher EF rating on water heaters will be required starting April 16, 2015. This applies to all residential water heaters, gas, electric, and oil-fired in the United States. Of course, most tank less water heaters already operate at a higher energy factor then required by the Department of Energy. For contractors, the higher energy standard will bring new challenges, as well as new opportunities.

What is EF? Basically, it is a measure of energy efficiency. “EF” stands for energy factor. It measures every unit of hot water output per unit of fuel input.

Not only will the new water heaters save energy and money, but also the environment. Like other energy to will result in billions of dollars in energy savings nationally as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Obviously, this mandate effects water heater manufacturers in the United States. Most water heaters will need more insulation to meet the standard. They may new combustion systems. Some may need additional piping and valves. Large electric water heaters (50 gallons or more) will require a heat pump. Since water heaters will be larger and require more insulation, they may not fit in places they used to. Contractors will need to train employees on the new technologies. These water heaters will waste less energy, but plumbers and contractors will need to know how to properly install and maintain these new water heaters. Maintenance costs will rise, but operating costs will go down. The new technology will take manufacturers, distributors, and installers time to get used to. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with the new requirements, now is the time to prepare.